1st BMC San Francisco Grand Prix - 1.4

San Francisco, USA, September 9, 2001

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Classic George hammers home alone

By Tim Maloney, cyclingnews.com correspondent

Perhaps George Hincapie was curious today in the inaugural edition of the San Francisco Grand Prix about a solo victory; his previous win in 2001 was in a close sprint win at Ghent-Wevelghem in April, but today, Hincapie didn't leave anything to chance today. The lanky USPS rider showed that he isn't only a sprinter as Hincapie, outnumbered in the remnants of the break by Saturn riders Trent Klasna and Michael Barry, attacked over the final climb of the steep Taylor Street hill to dump his company and solo in for the win in front of an estimated 250,000 fans.

The late summer day dawned cool and foggy in San Francisco As the peloton took the starting gun on the Embarcadero in front of SF's Ferry Building. An early break established an almost 2'00 lead, with top names like PCT leader Klasna up front. USPS missed the break and had to ride hard tempo to keep the gap in check. With 5 main laps to ride before the finishing circuits, the real action started when Tim Johnson of Saturn, fresh from his win in the gruelling Mt. Washington hill climb made a hard attack on the super-steep Filmore St. wall.

Lance Armstrong attacked behind him and the two moves blew the race apart. US Postal's Lance Armstrong, Hincapie and Ekimov, Mercury's Floyd Landis, Henk Vogels and Chris Wherry; Michael Barry, Tim Johnson, Mark McCormack (Saturn), Vassili Davidenko, Brendan Vesty, Mark Walters and Kirk O'Bee (Navigators) and Charles Dionne (7Up).

This was the move of the race and behind, the peloton waved The white flag of surrender. This big group started to reel in the front runners and after various moves and attacks, and the abandon of Lance Armstrong with two large laps to race, the SFGP all came down to a four man break as the 5 small finishing circuits commenced.

Klasna and Barry were there from Saturn, Canadian national champ Mark Walters of Navigators Was having an excellent day, while Hincapie made the final split; the USPS man seeming to gain strength with every lap. Klasna had gone out early to bring the race up to him, and the Powerful San Diego rider was paying for it in the final in San Fran. Hincapie had finished 10th in the Championship of Zurich just a few weeks ago and the superior depth of racing miles accumulated began to show as the SFGP approached the 200km mark.

Maple leaf jersey clad Walters was gapped off the front group on the next to last lap and indeed, the last time up the Taylor St. climb, Barry and Klasna tried to dump George, but there was nothing doing. Hincapie countered with his winning move and the Saturn riders faded just after the SFGP passed the 205km mark. After 5 hours and 20 minutes in the saddle, an ecstatic Hincapie came home victorious on the Embarcadero.

Hincapie wins with last-minute attack

BMC Software official event report

While it wasn't the rider that most Americans are familiar with, the U.S. Postal Service Professional Cycling Team did indeed emerge victorious, as George Hincapie held off the Saturn duo of Michael Barry and Trent Klasna to win the inaugural San Francisco Grand Prix.

For Hincapie, the formula for success was deceptively simple: "When everyone else started getting more and more tired going up the Fillmore hill (a half-mile climb with an average gradient of nearly 18 percent), I stayed the same. I didn't feel super-great at the start, but I rode my way into the race, thanks to the efforts of my teammates. They deserve this win every bit as much as I do."

Those teammates included three-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, whose well-documented battle with cancer and subsequent return to the top of the sporting world has earned him worldwide attention and adulation. While Armstrong wasn't at his best today- "I'm still not 100% recovered from the stomach bug I had earlier this week"- his efforts, as well as those of U.S. Postal Services teammates like 2000 Olympic gold medalist Viatcheslav Ekimov, put Hincapie in the position to win.

Of course, in the early going, it looked like U.S. Postal had been left completely out in the cold, as a seven-man breakaway that contained three Saturn riders — but not a single Postie — escaped the strong international field just 13 miles into the 125-mile race. The group consistently gained time on the rest, due largely to the efforts of Saturn rider Eric Wohlberg ("He was driving at the front of the break like a freight train!" marveled U.S. Postal team director Frankie Andreu). By the 55-mile mark, Saturn's efforts were shedding riders and amassing a lead of over two minutes. And that's when the sleeping giant, U.S. Postal Service, came to life.

With Armstrong and Ekimov forcing the pace, the field shattered, and a chase group of 14 coalesced. After an eighteen-mile chase, the group had closed in on the remaining leaders, and that's when the race really began. A new quartet formed, with holdover Klasna being joined by Barry, Hincapie, and, for a time, Mark Walters (Navigators) in what looked to be the decisive move. With the advantage of numbers, Saturn looked to be in the driver's seat though Barry and Klasna were quick to dispel that illusion. "Even though there were two of us in there, I was NEVER confident, " said Barry afterwards. That opinion was echoed by Klasna, who added that "I wouldn't have been confident unless we'd have dropped him on the last climb — and maybe not even then!"

As it turned out, the Saturn duo was correct to be concerned, as, with just two miles remaining, Hincapie decided to roll the dice and launched an attack on the final climb. Barry and Klasna hesitated, and that was the race. Though Barry managed to close to within a second at the finish line, their efforts weren't quite enough, as Hincapie held on for the victory.

Afterwards, all three men waxed enthusiastic about their first racing experience in San Francisco, and about the crowds in particular. "It was incredible, better than the World Championships", said Barry. "To race in front of a North American crowd this size, and for a North American team, it was just incredible." Klasna agreed: "Going up the climb, I was smiling every time!" And so were the estimated 350,000 San Franciscans lining the race course. When asked by race announcers whether they wanted the San Francisco Grand Prix back in 2002, the answer was a resounding 'YES!'

In the BMC Software Grand Prix standings, Vassili Davidenko moved into first place overall as a result of his seventh-place finish. The BMC Software Grand Prix series concludes on Sunday, September 16, with the BMC Software Tour of Houston.


Jim Pravetz was on Taylor St (16 percent climb) for the race and took these pictures

Jonathan Devich caught the action on the flats as well as the climbs, and a touching moment on the podium.

Mark Shimahara took these shots, many on the race's steepest climb

Carla Geyer hopped in a commissaire's car to take these pics of the action

Scot Johnson was on Taylor St for a crucial moment

  • The last four - another view of Hincapie, Barry, Klasna & Walters leaving behind Wherry and O'Bee
  • The Four - climb Taylor St

Results - 210 km

1 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal Service         5.20.42
2 Michael Barry (Can) Saturn                         0.01
3 Trent Klasna (USA) Saturn                          0.10
4 Mark Walters (Can) Navigators                      1.13
5 Mark McCormack (USA) Saturn                        4.32
6 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) US Postal Service
7 Vassili Davidenko (Rus) Navigators                 4.41
8 Kirk O'Bee (USA) Navigators                        4.55
9 Chris Wherry (USA) Mercury
10 Eric Wohlberg (Can) Saturn                        9.48
11 Tim Johnson (USA) Saturn
12 Harm Jansen (Ned) Saturn
13 Glen Mitchell (NZl) Navigators                   12.30
14 Chris Fisher (USA) Saturn
15 Jason McCartney (USA) Jelly Belly
16 Brendon Vesty (NZl) Navigators      
17 Luca Barla (Ita) Saeco                           13.23
18 John Kelly (USA) Alto Velo-Webcor      
19 Thomas Frischnecht (Swi) Alto Velo-Webcor        13.25
20 Scottie Weiss (USA) Zaxby's-DeFeet               13.38
21 Jon Hamblen (USA) Cannondale-Wheelworks          13.56
22 Steve Larsen (USA) Prime Alliance                14.30
23 Ted Huang (USA) Alto Velo-Webcor
24 Dirk Friel (USA) Zaxby's-DeFeet
25 James Matthis (USA) Alto Velo-Webcor
26 Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Lombardi Sports         
27 Patrick Heaney (USA) Lombardi Sports             17.14
28 Domingo Gonzalez (Mex) Corona-MasterCard         17.45